Life lessons from a Tetris grand master

5. Embrace the competition
Birrell learned Japanese in high school, inspired in part by the community of mostly Japanese gamers who make up Tetris’ and other games’ best. They, along with Tetris masters around the world, are his rivals and his muses. And they always talk.

Birrell checks in with Japanese players on social media and others in IRC chat, reporting his stats and catching up on theirs. In October 2011 he saw many of them in person at the Classic Tetris World Championships in Los Angeles. They share tips, tricks, even tutorials. It’s like they all realize that only by knowing how the others are doing can they fuel their own drive to improve.

“I don’t think that high school is competitive enough. There’s too much emphasis on making people not feel bad,” Birrell said. “If you want people to do well, they have to compete.”